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27 January 2013


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Paul Escobar

The Twisted Genius,

If I remember correctly, the military coup occurred because "the government" of Mali could not halt the division of their nation.

If Mr. Lang is heard in those far-out lands, that division seems to be price of their coming "victory".

Do you see any evidence that they (the Malian army) are now humbled enough to accept Tuareg independence...either as a formal nation - or in the guise of an "autonomous" region?


Paul Ecobar

I imagine something like the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. pl

Cold War Zoomie

But how can it be that "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys" do not turn and run away in combat?

My worldview is crumbling!



Yes, the CESM theme is one of the dumber and more inaccurate things in American popular culture. pl

The Twisted Genius

Paul Escobar,

As the Colonel said, something like the Kurdish autonomous region would be a viable solution. The MNLA dropped their call for a fully independent Azawad in October 2012 after their fight for independence was hijacked by the Salafists. The coup leaders and interim government in Bamako were still adamant about no foreign intervention at that time. They certainly changed that tune when the Salafists were within days of entering Bamako. I am certain that there are elements (or at least individuals) in Bamako who can see the wisdom of an autonomous Azawad with a larger Mali. Like an impending hanging, an impending Salafist victory tends to concentrate the mind.

Of course, old habits die hard and Bamako has a long history of giving the Tuaregs the short end of the stick. Hopefully the French can convince the right people that compromise is a wise road to head down.

The Twisted Genius


It's only those armchair warriors and chickenhawks who have never worked with the French military who called them CESMs.

Babak Makkinejad

Why not complete and total independence; like South Sudan?



The Africans in South Sudan fought for fifty years for their independence. Some of you will be here to see if the Touareg achieve that by 2160 or so. pl

The Twisted Genius


The Tuaregs are in the same predicament as the Kurds. They occupy territory in several neighboring countries. In the Tuareg's case, they occupy large swaths of Mali, Niger and Algeria. Governments throughout Africa do want to see an independent Azawad for fear of encouraging ethnic independence in their own territories. But in fifty years, who knows what the map of Africa will look like.

William R. Cumming

Okay if we think the French role and skill set appropriate in parts of Africa why not an intervention by proxy world view and just fund their efforts?


Two years ago I thought that when the Kurds are so foolish to declare sovereignty, they would be ground up between Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. I think that assumption is still valid.

Turkey, Iran and Iraq all wouldn't tolerate Kurdish secession. Maliki is consolidating power and he will probably be unwilling to let Kurdistan go. The Turks are adamant in not allowing Kurdish secession, and I don't see that Iran is willing to accept that either.

Without Israeli and US support the Kurds, being landlocked, could probably be economically strangled by their neighbours, and would be under intense pressure if surrounded by hostile powers. Come to think of it, what good is all the oil in Kirkuk when it can't be exported? IMO the Kurds are wise to not rock the boat, and not misunderstand the attention they receive from Israel and the US as anything but transactional.

The only candidate eliminated here, for now, is IMO Syria. Today the revolutionary enterprise in Syria has the potential to split up Syria and remove the Assad government as a player. Even so, Assad has his hands full with the western and Gulf supported Jihadis atm, and has no time to deal with the Kurds also. Iirc he has given them some liberties to mollify them. If the Jihadis were to succeed, Syria may splinter into ethnic cantons. Lebanon may be next then. The Jihadis won't stop at borders.

And even if they win: I have a hard time seeing the Jihadis finding a lot of appeal in Kurdistan - or Kurds and their ethnocentrism finding a lot of approval with Jihadis. Isn't it one criticism Al Qaeda had for Hamas that Hamas is a Plaestinian Islamic organisation, and not a Pan-Islamic one? Even if the Jihadis win in Syria, they will end up confronting the Kurds, be it only over the matter of clothing, alcohol, and the lack of Saudi-Style Sharia law in Kurdistan.

Also, one easily underestimates racism along ethnic lines. I was struck by the extent Turks I met look down to Kurds and Arabs in general. In Mexico buses didn't stop for indígenas. Such nastiness is probably quite prevalent worldwide.

I wonder if balkanisation and cantonisation is not the harebrained idea behind the entire regime change scheme that took place since 2003. I read 'A clean break' to suggest such an approach.

A balkanisation of the Levante, turning the region into a snake pit, and the lack of any credible military in the neighbourhood would allow Israel to dominate all its neighbours militarily, allowing them, to play one off against the other while intervening at will, proving to the US that Israel alone is suitable as a proxy in the Middle East, cementing the already next to unconditional alliance.

Paul Escobar

William R. Cumming,

If all future interventions are purely motivated by fears of Salafist rule...then you are not wrong. As far down as DR Congo, French is a widely used language.

However (and Mr. Lang might roll his eyes at this)...if there are economic considerations, then you would merely be facilitating an economic competitor.

It is odd that China supported the intervention in Mali, but is still viewed as a "threat" & "rival" in the region.


paul escobar

Yes. I find the idea of an economic competition with France in Africa to be absurd. pl


confusedponderer said i

“Today the revolutionary enterprise in Syria has the potential to split up Syria and remove the Assad”

Assad's removal not likely.. and sounds like Tony Blinken will eventually be National Security Adviser.

For those who know, can comment on this likely appointment..



Col, is it possible, at this moment in time, to contemplate the number, rough number, of forces the French will leave behind to keep the area 'secure'? Can troops other than French, or EU personal, keep 'the peace' once it is has been gained by French forces?


Indeed, the CESM meme is ridiculous. Remember that in WWI, French troops provided indoctrination the bulk of U.S. Army and Marine Corps troops- the bulk of those doing the indoctrination were from the Chasseurs Alpins or "Blue Devils"- who provided valuable lessons learned from fighting the Germans, particularly the Strumtruppen, in the Vosges Mountains. Those U.S. troops who had been indoctrinated by the Blue Devils were considered to be have been much better prepared than those given indoctrination by the British. And the Chasseurs Alpins made such an impression on the Americans, that veterans returning after the chose that nickname for Duke University.



I doubt if sub-saharan African forces can successfully resist these jihadis. the french will have to work this out for themselves. We should restrict ourselves to supporting the French and not joining in the combat. pl


I'm not sure about your last paragraph-
some areas of the ME may end up Balkanized or tribalised, but I would bet a fair bit that this will not happen either to Turkey or Iran. Neither of them are prepared to let Israel have free rein in the region.



IMO msny of the post colonial states are not "nation-states." I accept reality. pl

Babak Makkinejad

They are not even states.

Babak Makkinejad

I think Kurds are too riven with tribalism to create a state.

There are good reasons that for 3000 years there has never ever been a Kurdish state.

During the last 1000 years, there have been Armenian, Georgian, Arab, Persian, and Turkic states but never a Kurdish one.

Just like Sikhs, they might know how to fight but they cannot govern.

Some people are like that.

Alba Etie

"Lafayette we are Here "
Too much blood & treasure spent over the years ever to take the chicken hawks seriously .

Babak Makkinejad

I agree.

And one way or another there will be a state with its center at Damascus.

Ishmael Zechariah

Confused Ponderer,

Quite a few of my friends in the Turkish Armed Forces believe that "balkanisation and cantonisation of the Levant" in favor of Israel is the driving force behind all this. You might remember the antisemitism charges against the Turkish secularists by the Israeli operatives in the US media when the current Islamist government was first elected. As you say, this might be a very risky idea and the Israelis may live to rue it in a generation.

My grandfather, an Ottoman infantry officer, was captured by the Arabs and delivered to the British for bounty during the WWI. My grandmother did not care too much for Arabs and, thoroughly indoctrinated by her stories, neither do I. Quite a few us feel this way. We have not forgotten. I would argue that the extent of penetration by the Israeli intelligence services of Arabian countries show that they have not improved in the ensuing 95 years. The Kurds are another matter, but most of us view the current secessionists as Israeli collaborators. They may have troubles in the long run as you have predicted.

Ishmael Zechariah

Medicine Man

I remember arguing this exact point with a (US) conservative acquaintance. I talked about their historical strength in European history, with their trouble against the Germans being almost entirely a modern phenomenon; the ravages of WWI and the lost generation; how US artillery strategies have their root in French inventions; etc.

His reply: "I'll give them some credit when they win a war in the modern era." It's frustrating.

Tyler's anecdote about the Alabama National Guardsmen and the FFL Grenadiers was an amusing counterpoint though.

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